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Pentagon Uses Facial Recognition Feature for Autonomously Responding Drones | technology



Drones have an increasingly prominent role in civil and military aviation. Its use spread in the Ukrainian war. Russia resorted to using Iranian-made drones to attack areas where it had poor flight. Ukraine also used it for its defense. Many countries are enhancing their capabilities with unmanned devices. The United States, one of the leading countries in the military use of drones, is equipping its devices with facial recognition capabilities that allow them to respond autonomously.

The Pentagon has awarded Seattle-based RealNetworks a project to implement facial recognition in small, self-driving aircraft for identification and intelligence gathering, according to the website of a US government fund that aims to promote innovation and technology transfer in small and medium-sized businesses.

The project description states that the systems should serve to provide actionable information to remote human operators and also “provide the capability for the robot to respond autonomously in real time”. The system developed by RealNetworks, whose award was presented by NewScientist, is based on artificial intelligence.

RealNetworks has already received other projects from the Department of Defense for facial recognition, including those dedicated to accessing access controls for security enclosures or rescue missions, or installing such identification software into autonomous quadrobots, according to official records. The cost of the project to adapt these facial recognition systems to drones was $729,000 (about 690,000 euros at current exchange rates).

Facial recognition works with a high degree of success if the photo is taken in suitable conditions, but it’s hard to do from a drone. Some companies are developing technology to improve reliability by changing the angle based on the person’s position.

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Drone reconnaissance can have multiple security applications, from package surveillance to suspect locations. However, equipping a drone with facial recognition and allowing it to respond autonomously raises concerns that it could be programmed to find and kill a person, with the ethical and legal questions such an operation raise.

The United States has frequently used drones to launch attacks on terrorist leaders and other enemies, but the normal thing is that other sources allow identification and the device does not respond independently, but rather is commanded and operated remotely.

One of the most notorious drone attacks in the United States was the one that killed Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda, in early August 2022 in Kabul, on the orders of President Joe Biden. Al-Zawahiri, one of the most wanted terrorists, took Osama bin Laden’s place in the terrorist organization after the latter’s death in 2011.

Other countries are also developing their own facial recognition software from unmanned military devices. Israel and Turkey are among the countries credited with such proven technology in drones. The development of such devices raises concerns that drones equipped with facial recognition software could be used by criminals and terrorist organizations to attack their targets.

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